18.06.2024

Review: Turbo Overkill – TURBOmadness

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Trigger Happy Interactive talked about Turbo Overkill as a dream project that the developers themselves, as gamers, would like to play. I must say, we were lucky with the authors’ preferences. It turned out that they dreamed about the best shooter in recent years. And for once their desires coincided with the possibilities.

  • Developer: Trigger Happy Interactive
  • Publisher: Apogee Entertainment
  • Release Date: August 11, 2023

August was a really festive month for fans of first-person shooters. No sooner the wonderful Quake II remaster was released, than the next day Turbo Overkill came out of early access. And, with all due respect to the classic, Trigger Happy Interactive’s creation was a big reason to rejoice. The New Zealand studio’s debut turned out to be not just a successful boomer shooter, but one of the best single-player first-person action games in years.

We all realize that it wasn’t the dramatic stories that made the genre famous. But it would be a mistake to say that a shooter doesn’t need a narrative – I’m willing to argue with John Carmack on that one. A charismatic protagonist and a memorable world are essential elements of every iconic FPS, from Duke Nukem 3D to Painkiller. The developers of Turbo Overkill didn’t neglect them.

The events unfold on a distant moon, where a space colony has managed to turn into a huge futuristic metropolis, the scale of which Knight City would envy. We’ve been cast as Johnny Turbo, a street cleaner. Not the kind of guy whose tools are a broom and dustpan. Johnny’s more of a shotgun and rocket launcher guy.

Unlike most action heroes like Serious Sam or Lo Wong, Turbo is a silent guy. Throughout the entire game, he doesn’t utter a single word. The mercenary prefers words to deeds. And each level starts with a first-person cut-scene, where he does something funny and sometimes absolutely crazy. The intro, in which the hero lands on some punk using a chainsaw in his prosthetic leg, perfectly sets the tone for further events.

The city of the future is ruled by an artificial intelligence, which by the time the game starts has gone a little crazy, experimenting with the fusion of machines and flesh and trying to impose its power over primitive humans. Johnny is hired to deal with the rampaging AI. And even though you shouldn’t expect much from the plot, it manages to maintain interest in what’s going on thanks to the dynamics of events, a couple of unexpected twists and turns and successful references to the cult films of the eighties and nineties: from “The Terminator” to “The Fifth Element”.

The visuals also play on the atmosphere of sci-fi action movies from the video salon in every possible way. First of all, of course, “Blade Runner” comes to mind, with skyscrapers lost in the clouds, eternal rainy night and an ocean of neon. But with a hint of oriental flavor. The story will take us through various locations, from canonical streets of metropolis and casinos to heavenly palaces of elite and spaceships. And yes, the level in space in the middle of the battle of humanity and monsters is made cooler than in Doom Eternal.

Stylistically, Turbo Overkill is in the spirit of games from the very early 2000s, like Soldiers of Fortune. But you can’t call the game ugly. The environment is well thought out and full of details, landscapes are exceptionally pleasing to the eye, and some effects, like the same rain, look very impressive. The terrain is perfectly “readable”, and despite the decent scope (for a linear shooter), you’ll never get lost on the map, whether it’s platforming sections or heated battles.

Turbo Overkill’s rebellious soul and iron heart is, of course, the drive-in-charged gameplay. Johnny is opposed by street gangs, mercenaries, and a host of creepy creatures made of fused flesh and technology. If you take a closer look at the opponents, it becomes uncomfortable: some of them have a monitor instead of a head, on which the faces distorted by a grimace of pain appear, others literally represent a human millipede, and so on.

It’s good that you’ll be able to view them only in a separate menu, because you won’t have time in the middle of the action. Turbo Overkill works at super-high speeds, after which Quake II can’t be called anything but a muddle. At the same time, events don’t slip into uncontrollable chaos thanks to spacious levels and precise controls. Johnny runs fast and reacts to all commands accurately. It’s a hell of a pleasure to control him. The only thing more enjoyable is shooting from the local arsenal.

Absolutely every gun is a gem, pressed by decades of the genre’s history: from the initial pistols to the orbital cannon that works according to your aim. And all the weapons are useful from the moment they appear in your hands until the finale. There will always be a situation where this or that gun will work better. But there is no compulsion. If you like plasmogun – use it in any situation, as long as you have ammunition. Did Doom Eternal instill a reflex to juggle your arsenal? Please, in Turbo Overkill you can maximize your damage in this way too. Choose the approach you want and maximize its effectiveness through both personal skill and implants.

Johnny, as a decent protagonist in the cyberpunk world, can upgrade his body with various modules. They don’t just increase life or armor stats, but open up new gameplay features, like sliding down walls when falling, triple jumping, or shockwave when falling from a height. An entire line of upgrades is dedicated to the saw built into the leg. Yes, it’s not only spectacularly used in cutscenes (seriously, if in your game the hero doesn’t make a cutscene with a saw in his leg, don’t even offer it to me), but also serves as an effective weapon. With a certain amount of training, you can complete entire levels with just swipes (also activated by jumping).

Throughout the passage the game will constantly throw you something new. Each gun eventually opens an alternative firing mode, and later the main one changes as well, thanks to which the barrels do not lose their relevance. Even the seemingly weak shotgun is not replaced by a double-barreled shotgun, as is often the case, but turns into an accurate pulse rifle.

Johnny learns special skills: to shoot homing missiles from his hand, to slow down time and – where without it – to hook onto ledges and enemies. The gentleman’s set perfectly complements the weapon arsenal. All elements work perfectly in synergy, allowing you to fly around the battlefield, sowing death and destruction. You want to use all the possibilities at once, simply because it is very pleasant: and in slow motion to roll with chainsaw through enemy carcasses, and pull up to the enemy by hook to blow his head off with double-barrelled shotgun at point-blank range, and simply pour a hail of bullets from the machine gun.

The authors try to diversify the situations in every possible way. Many levels have their own unique trick: from jumping on flying cars to sniper duels. By the way, the local sniper rifle allows you to teleport directly into the enemy and tear him apart. Furious firefights are diluted by platforming sections, which are organically woven into the architecture of the level. A couple of times we will be allowed to jump behind the wheel of our own flying car with machine guns and rocket launchers on board. And the section with the escape from the “Eye of Sauron” on a motorcycle sticks in the memory as one of the most spectacular game scenes of the year.

The most important thing is that the authors don’t think that a classic shooter should necessarily make you sweat from the tension. Turbo Overkill is primarily concerned with making it fun. The game tries to make you feel like an unstoppable force, a destroyer of worlds. But it doesn’t turn into a “press the button to win” experience. Except that the first act seems a bit simple for the high difficulty (the third of five available), but already from the second one it levels up and keeps a perfect balance until the final credits.


Turbo Overkill is a modern benchmark of shooters, which filigree combines old-school hurricane gameplay with modern trends like implants and flirting with openness of locations. While usually a hint of a sequel is viewed with skepticism, as if the game hasn’t been finished, in this case this approach is exceptionally welcome.


PROS

  • Intense and varied firefights
  • Adrenaline platforming
  • Sophisticated arsenal
  • Powerful sci-fi vibe

CONS

  • There is not enough icon for a successful quick save
  • There’s not enough variety in the music

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